Monday, October 31, 2016

Penelope Pumpkin & Jack O’Lantern: A Children’s Tale

Very Short Story


Happy Halloween one and all.

Penelope Pumpkin
Photo Credit & Source
: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016


Penelope Pumpkin loved her family, but yet was unhappy. Like all the pumpkins, she grew up in the pumpkin patch. She looked the same as all of them: orange with a little dirt. Some were bigger than her; some were smaller, but they were all pumpkins.

Like I said, Penelope loved her parents, but she didn’t love herself and didn't know why until much later, long after she had left the pumpkin patch. Although she was sad to leave her parents, something deep inside of her told her that “it would all work out for the best.” So, Penelope left with a hopeful heart, moving from the only home she had known and away to the Big City.

Shortly after arriving in the Big City, Penelope went to a juice bar. She met many other kinds, where not all of them were pumpkins. Some were carrots; some were tomatoes and others were oranges. One of them eyed Penelope. They soon became friends. After some time had passed, she confided to her new friend that she was still unhappy.

“What you need is to find yourself. I have a name of a wonderful psychotherapist. Give her a call.”

So, Penelope went; and after two months, her psychotherapist recommended a surgical procedure that would fix everything. “You’ll love yourself,” she said, “Really.”

Penelope liked the idea of going for surgery. It was called gender reassignment surgery. She didn’t understand everything about the procedure, but she trusted her psychotherapist, who had an advanced degree from a leading east-coast university.

Most important, she liked the idea of having a new identity, where it would match the way she felt inside, the way she had always viewed herself. She was a little fearful, though, of the knife, that it would hurt. But she overcame this initial apprehension by telling herself that it was worth “the pain” if it would lead to her final goal.

She woke up; actually it should now read, “he woke up,”

“Congratulations,” the surgeon said. “The surgery was a complete success. What would you now liked to be named.

Penelope was not used to her new self. This was all so new to her, and it would take some time to sink in. She took a deep breath and composed herself. She then looked at herself in the mirror, thought about it for a moment, and said, ”Jack O’Lantern.”

“That’s it,” the surgeon said. “You are now known as Jack O’Lantern.”

Now, Penelope was happy with a new identity as Jack O’Lantern. He was still orange, but he felt lighter; much lighter. He glowed and glowed and was a light and inspiration to his neighborhood. So he thought, and so it was.

A few fellow pumpkins came to him for advice. He felt happy and needed. Jack thanked Penelope (in his heart) for making a good decision. Without her, there would be no him. His only regret, and it was a silent secret one, was that he could not return home to the pumpkin patch.


Jack O’Lantern
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Leonard Cohen: Lover Lover Lover (2013)



Leonard Cohen and band perform “Lover Lover Lover” at the Wiener Stadthalle in Vienna, Austria, on July 27, 2013. This concert was part of Cohen's Old Ideas World Tour (August 2012 to December 2013). The song itself is fourth track on Cohen’s fourth studio album New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which was released on August 11, 1974. The song has many layers and it is as much a song of faith as of love. It speaks of redemption and return to the loved one.

Lover Lover Lover
by Leonard Cohen

I asked my father, I said, “Father change my name.” The one I’m using now it's covered up With fear and filth and cowardice and shame. Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me, Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. He said, “I locked you in this body, I meant it as a kind of trial. You can use it for a weapon, Or to make some woman smile.” Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. “Then let me start again,” I cried, “please let me start again, I want a face that’s fair this time, I want a spirit that is calm.”
Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. “I never never turned aside,” he said, “I never walked away. It was you who built the temple, It was you who covered up my face.” Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. And may the spirit of this song, May it rise up pure and free. May it be a shield for you, A shield against the enemy. Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me. Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me Yes and lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Global Wildlife Populations Facing Steep Decline by 2020

The Natural World

As few as 70 critically endangered Amur leopards are left in the wild, due to habitat destruction and human-wildlife conflict.
Endangered Species: One of the signs of the Anthropocene Era is that humans dominate, which can be stressfully argued is the case today, and which has been so since at least the time when humans became mechanized and industrialized. What’s good for humans is not so for other living species. The Amur leopards are one of many species that are facing extinction; they are found, reports the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “in the border areas between the Russian Far East and north-east China.”  In an accompanying article, The Guardian writes (“World’s wildlife being pushed to the edge—in pictures;” October 27, 2016): “As few as 70 critically endangered Amur leopards are left in the wild, due to habitat destruction and human-wildlife conflict.” It further adds: ”Global wildlife populations will decline by 67% by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to reduce human impact on species and ecosystems, warns the biennial Living Planet Index report from WWF and ZSL.” This is less than five years away. One can argue that a loss of species—and of biodiversity—might not truly be so good for humans, after all. We also lose a sense of ourselves, of our common and universal humanity. For more, go to [The Guardian]
Photo Credit: Vladimir Medvedev/Getty Images/Nature Picture Library
Source: The Guardian

Friday, October 28, 2016

It’s a Matter of Taste

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia


Breakfast at Beauty’s: Originally called Bancroft Snack Bar, it opened in 1942, sharing the name of the nearby elementary school (Bancroft Elementary School) that I attended between 1963 and 1970. I passed this snack bar every single day I attended the school, and never went in since I ate breakfast and lunch at home. It became more popular after the 1970s, perhaps, driven by nostalgia more than anything else. I have eaten at Beauty’s a number of times, and they do make a good breakfast. Beauty’s, which is on the corner of avenue du Mont-Royal O. & rue St. Urbain, is situated in the neighborhood of Mile End, which is part of the borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal The food critic, Alan Richman, reserves special praise for its founding owner, Hymie Sckolnick, aged 95, who is still at the counter.
Photo Credit: Mickael Bandassak
Source: Town&Country

Montreal is the food capital of North America, ousting New York City. So says an article, by Alan Richman of Town & Country magazine, which is based in New York City. Although such rankings can generally be viewed as “arbitrary,” I am not surprised by Richman ranking Montreal as the premier place for dining out. It has so many fabulous and memorable places to eat—from bistros to delis, from diners to fine-dining restaurants.

In “Montreal is the New Food Capital of North America” (April 28, 2016), Richman writes:
The restaurants of Montreal are the attraction. Their evolution, which started in this century, has been swift. They are modest in size and technically proficient, and they provide a sense of casual fine dining that is embraced more wholeheartedly here than anywhere in the U.S. The dining culture is descended from those of both France and England— thankfully, more from France—leaving Montreal a sort of culinary orphan, free to seek its own path.
New York, which was considered the best American dining city in most eras, but no longer, has become ground zero for casual dining. (A restaurant critic for the New York Times recently announced his top dish of the year: a sticky bun.) Montreal has developed an engaging dining personality at the same time that New York has been losing the one it had.
In many ways, a city takes on the personality of its restaurants. There is no shame in New York coming second to Montreal, at least in this particular ranking. Both are ranked in the top 20 food cities in the world by Food & Wine magazine; Montreal being the only city in Canada holding such a distinction. When it comes to food and dining out, Montreal is hard to beat.

One of the reasons is that there are so many choices of places to eat in the city with so many good Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Thai, Vietnamese and other choice of eateries serving delicious dishes from many parts of the world.  Moreover, locals not only know of the places that are widely known and famous—like Beauty’s, Montreal Pool Room, Orange Julep, Schwartz’s and Wilensky’s, etc., but also the neighbourhood haunts that are gustatory gems, found not on the beaten path but elsewhere.

It has been said that tasting a nation’s cuisine, notably if it is authentic, is one way to access its culture, since food is inextricably linked to it. Even so, as much as we like to wander and experiment, we tend to return to old familiar places—linked as they often are to good times in our memories. We all have our local favourites, no matter where we live. These choices are often influenced by the memories of youth, when we first increased the range of our palate. This alone is one of the reasons that many people take food critic rankings with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Soul Sickness & Nourishing Sacredness

Health & Wellness


Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.” 
Walt Whitman [1819-1892],
Preface to Leaves of Grass, first edition (1855)


Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1860 edition)
Image Credit: Thayer and Eldridge; Boston, Mass.
Source: Wikipedia


What troubles the soul is the opposite of truth. We might call this instinct, and some proclaim to have good instincts. I am inclined to view this as the soul speaking. This is not about fairness, but about the search for truth. Poetry is distilled prose in search for truth, or at one time this was so. But I think it still is so—that poetry can be both revealing and salutary. I am reading a book, Care of the Soul (1992), by Thomas Moore, which says the soul does not so much require curing but caring, nurturing, etc. The soul is not some silent partner in your life; when it is hurting or in pain, it lets you know.

Silencing it, censoring it or ignoring it will not work. Neither will using drugs, whether they come from pharmaceuticals or the street; such are only temporary solutions to a human condition of soul sickness. When you feel as if “something is not right” you understand the gist or meaning of the words that I just wrote.

Some might find this idea irrational, but it is not within the bounds of rational thought or ideas. This does not, however, deny its reality or validity. We, humans, are more than flesh and blood; we are more than materialistic beings; we are also spiritual beings. Such are the intangibles, the unknowns, the unseen aspects of our being. Serious thinkers throughout the ages have made inquiries into this very subject.

Science cannot and Religion fails when it imposes without love or understanding. But there is Poetry and the great voices of poetry, which Whitman is part of, to increase our understanding of what it is to be human. Poetry speaks to us in a far different manner than does science. It does so, I believe, not through the channels of reason, but through our souls, however hard this is to describe, let alone define.

Definitions and certainty have their place in our lives, but they cannot and do not lead to complete understanding  or to pathways of truth. There are general truths, but there are particular truths, just as there are particular tastes. The writer residing in the human body makes inquiries and writes about such inquiries. So have I throughout the decades of my adult life and have touched upon this very subject in some of my writings, in some of my posts. It is important because it is human.

I plan to write more about this subject from time to time, and will share some of my thoughts. I have the desire and the need to do so and hope that you can give it some attention.

Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul (1994 edition); in Chapter 1 to introduce the working view of the book, Moore writes: “Care of the soul, looking back with special regard to ancient psychologies for insight and guidance, goes beyond the secular mythology of the self and recovers a sense of the sacredness of each individual life. This sacred quality is not just value—all lives are important. It is the unfathomable mystery that is the very seed and heart of each individual. Shallow therapeutic manipulations aimed at restoring normalcy or tuning a life according to standards reduces—shrinks—the profound mystery to the pale dimensions of a social common denominator referred to as the adjusted personality” (19-20),
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

Taza in Reverie by Charlotte Dumas

Photograph Of The Week

“Taza,” a photograph by Charlotte Dumas, a Dutch photographer, is part of the series Reverie; her work will be on display in May 2017, as part of “Hunting with a Camera: Pioneers of Dutch Nature Photography,” an exhibition at the Dutch Fotomuseum, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. On Dumas’ site we can read more about the Reverie photos: “In 2005, Charlotte Dumas travelled to Norway and Sweden New York and Colorado to create portraits of the majestic canines in her series Reverie. Despite her close proximity to the wolves in her photographs, Dumas reveals the vast distance between the world of humans and wolves as her photographs portray the wolf as an enigmatic, imperceptible being.” It seems so unusual to see a grey wolf alone, away from the pack. This photo of the sleeping wolf reveals her vulnerability, something that is pointed out in the artist statement: “They not only convey their vulnerability at rest, but also reflect a falling, the losing of consciousness. “As I spent time with them I felt this was maybe one of the most intimate and private moments to witness: the gap between wakefulness and slumber, a space for dreaming and reverie.”
Photo Credit: ©Charlotte Dumas, 2005

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Brigitte Engerer: Chopin’s 21 Nocturnes



French pianist Brigitte Engerer [1952–2012] plays the complete Nocturnes of Frédéric François Chopin [1810–1849; born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin in Żelazowa Wola, Poland]. The nocturnes are 21 pieces for solo piano that Chopin wrote between 1827 and 1846. So, grab a cup of tea or coffee and allow these nocturnes to carry you along to another place of the mind and soothe your soul, to a place between wakefulness and sleep, to reverie. It’s classical soul music.

The Playlist:
1. 0:06 Op. 9, No. 1 in B flat minor. Larghetto
2. 5:53 Op. 9, No. 2 in E flat major. Andante
3. 10:29 Op. 9, No. 3 in B major. Allegretto
4. 17:09 Op. 15, No. 1 in F major. Andante cantabile
5. 22:07 Op. 15, No. 2 in F sharp major. Larghetto
6. 25:43 Op. 15, No. 3 in G minor. Lento
7. 30:53 Op. 27, No. 1 in C sharp minor. Larghetto
8. 36:32 Op. 27, No. 2 in D flat major. Lento sostenuto
9. 42:27 Op. 32, No. 1 in B major. Andante sostenuto
10. 47:27 Op. 32, No. 2 in A flat major. Lento
11. 53:01 Op. 37, No. 1 in G minor. Lento
12. 59:51 Op. 37, No. 2 in G major. Andante
13. 1:06:17 Op. 48, No. 1 in C minor. Lento
14. 1:12:25 Op. 48, No. 2 in F sharp minor. Andantino
15. 1:20:11 Op. 55, No. 1 in F minor. Andante
16. 1:25:36 Op. 55, No. 2 in E flat major. Lento sostenuto
17. 1:31:19 Op. 62, No. 1 in B major. Andante
18. 1:38:51 Op. 62, No. 2 in E major. Lento
19. 1:45:11 Op. 72, No. 1 in E minor. Andante
20. 1:49:19 Op. posth in C sharp minor. Lento con gran espressione
21. 1:53:18 Op. posth in C minor. Andante sostenuto

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Better Understanding of ‘The Addictive Personality’

Human Behaviors

Unbroken BrainMaia Szalavitz, writes: “Addictions and other neurodevelopmental disorders rely not just on our actual experience but on how we interpret it and how our parents and friends respond to and label the way we behave. They develop in brains designed to change with experience—and that leaves us vulnerable to learning things that create damaging patterns, not just useful habits.”
Image Credit & Source: ScientAmer

An excerpt published in Scientific American taken from the book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction, by Maia Szalavitz, says that there is no scientific evidence, no general collection of personality traits, to label someone with an addictive personality. Such a diagnosis is a myth, and in no way based on current scientific research. Moreover, Szalavitz adds that many of the behaviors associated with addictions are often a result of problems associated with learning and interpreting one’s experience, whether positive or negative.

Such individuals are not born with what is deemed as anti-social personality disorders, which suggest a genetic component, but might have learning disorders, primarily in how they process information—often in a way that can distort their thought processes and lead to the formation of bad or destructive personal habits.

In “The Addictive Personality Isn't What You Think It Is” (April 5, 2016), Szalavitz writes:
Although addiction was originally framed by both Alcoholics Anonymous and psychiatry as a form of antisocial personality or “character” disorder, research did not confirm this idea. Despite decades of attempts, no single addictive personality common to everyone with addictions has ever been found. If you have come to believe that you yourself or an addicted loved one, by nature of having addiction, has a defective or selfish personality, you have been misled. As George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told me, “What we’re finding is that the addictive personality, if you will, is multifaceted,” says Koob. “It doesn’t really exist as an entity of its own.”
Fundamentally, the idea of a general addictive personality is a myth. Research finds no universal character traits that are common to all addicted people. Only half have more than one addiction (not including cigarettes)—and many can control their engagement with some addictive substances or activities, but not others. Some are shy; some are bold. Some are fundamentally kind and caring; some are cruel. Some tend toward honesty; others not so much. The whole range of human character can be found among people with addictions, despite the cruel stereotypes that are typically presented. Only 18% of addicts, for example, have a personality disorder characterized by lying, stealing, lack of conscience, and manipulative antisocial behavior. This is more than four times the rate seen in typical people, but it still means that 82% of us don’t fit that particular caricature of addiction.
It is worth your while to read the full article. In essence, what Szalavitz argues, and does so rather persuasively I might add, is that there is no collection of personality traits that easily define an addictive personality. While extreme traits like risk-taking, poor impulsive control and novelty-seeking can lead to addictive behaviours, it can also be found in persons who are compulsive and fear novelty. Or in persons who are lonely, without friends and who are generally alienated from society.

Over time, persons can easily become locked into negative habits, and once formed find it difficult to change. Successful treatment is often found in cognitive based therapies, I would suspect; and not so much in pharmaceutical drugs, which do not effectively change patterns of thinking and of learned behaviours. Not surprising, religion and spirituality have also shown to be highly effective in breaking bad habits, including harmful addictions.

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For more, go to [ScientAmer]

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Tastes Of Jean-Talon Market

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

Marché Jean-Talon: The market, at the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy district, is bounded by he Jean-Talon Street to the north, Mozart Ave. to the south, Casgrain Ave. to the west and Henri-Julien Ave. to the east. During the growing season, between May and October, about 300 vendors, mostly local farmers, have their produce stalls at the market.
Photo Credit: Susan Moss; Tourisme Montréal

Jean-Talon Market (Marché Jean-Talon), in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy, is one of those places Montreal natives take for granted, that is, until they move elsewhere, to cities where such places cannot be found. I first came here with my father in the 1960s as a young tyke. Back then, it was not as fancy as it is now after the modernization was completed in 2005, adding such contemporary accoutrements as underground parking and specialty boutiques. Before, it was primarily an open-air farmer’s market with stalls where merchant-farmers sold their fruits and vegetables.

It is still primarily about the produce. One of the beauties of this market is that you can sample the fruits and vegetables before purchase. The many vendors place them on a platter (see photo below), so you can see if they are tasty enough for you, and often they are. This gives you an opportunity to sample various kinds of fruits and vegetables, notably ones you have never tried before. The place is packed, as you would expect, on the weekends, so it is advisable to arrive as early as possible in the morning. It is a nice way to spend a Saturday morning, as is exploring Little Italy,which resides in the borough of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie.

This market has been a Montreal landmark since 1933. One of the four large public markets in the city, it is the largest open-air farmers’ market in North America. It is not only a place to get fresh fruits and vegetables, but also cheeses, fish, baked goods and olives, to name a few of my favourite specialty boutiques, This place also epitomizes why the city is known for its great food and cuisine. There are many food favourites that are common to Montreal, but as I write this in the morning I miss my chocolatine (le pain au chocolat) and the café au lait.


Sampling the Produce: The raised platforms are filled with fruits and vegetables for the purpose of sampling. Here you can see the tomatoes, mangoes and pineapples, among other fruits and vegetables.
Photo Credit & Source: Foodology

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Looking Out (Oct 2016)

Autumn 2016






A couple of photos, near my writing space, of a few of the green houseplants residing with me inside my residence. These include two philodendrons, a dieffenbachia and an African violet (Saintpaulias). The last photo, a northwestern view, shows the large public park with its changing Autumn foliage. Lots of reds and golds are in view, contrasting with the blue sky; some would define it as more of an azure sky. These photos were taken last week; and even looking at them today provides me a different impression, one that is influenced both by my experiences today and by the cumulative ones that preceded it. Both memories are real; both memories are valid. It is always inspiring to look out after a long period of introspection. One can easily see that too much solitude can lead to malnourishment of the soul.








All Photos: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bob Dylan: Hurricane (1975)


One of my favorite Bob Dylan songs (co-written by Jacques Levy)—in a catalog that has many great songs—is dedicated to the case of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer falsely accused and framed for the 1966 triple murder in Paterson, New Jersey. Racism played a prominent role in Carter’s arrest, prosecution and incarceration, which Dylan makes clear in the song. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I can still remember hearing the song for the first time in late 1975, when it was released as a single, and how much it stirred a passion for justice. So it remains, as it should. (You can hear another version, with Emmylou Harris singing backup, [here].)

It, the song, is the first track on the album Desire, which was released in January 1976, Wikipedia says, “making the Carter case known to a broad public. ‘Hurricane’ is credited with harnessing popular support to Carter’s defense.” Carter was freed in 1985 after spending almost 20 years in prison. Soon after he moved to Toronto. Rubin Carter died of prostrate cancer on April 20, 2014; he was 76.

I saw Bob Dylan in concert at the (old) Montreal forum on October 30, 1981, when he and his music showed definite influences of Christianity. For some, this was Dylan’s dark age of music creativity, but I disagree. The opening song of this concert was “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979), which is as true as it was then and is as good as it gets in the department of creativity. In a simple word, the song is “masterful.” This song can never get old, since its meaning forever stays young.

The story of Dylan and his search into both Christianity and Hasidism (to wit, the Chabad-Lubavitch sect of Judaism) has already been told and analysed, and is not worth recounting here. Only his intimates know some of the story; only the people that were there during the time can ascertain what happened. Even so, this does not mean that they do “know;” only Dylan himself knows and appreciates the complete story. Others can only speculate, What we do know is that Dylan’s music changed then, and that he had a spiritual experience or awakening, which is not a bad thing but always a good thing.

Like many searchers, myself included, Dylan wants to find his place.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

T-Cell Cancer Therapies: Greater Scrutiny Required

Cancer Research

Dividing Lymphoma Cells: The thinking is that these can be destroyed by CAR-T therapy.
Image Credit: Steve Gschmeissner; SPL
Source: Nature


An article, by Hedi Ledford, in Nature shows how difficult it is to meet the public expectations for emerging new therapies to treat cancer. One of the most promising (and perhaps over-hyped) is an immunotherapy, where the body's T-cells are used to fight cancer. While it has been successful in particular cancers, it has also resulted in human deaths in others.

The central issue is how to both effectively and safely use such newer therapies, which don't have the proven track record of conventional cancer therapies like chemotherapy, which have been around for decades. Oncologists know all of chemo's side effects. This is hardly the case with the newer therapies that use the body’s T-cells.

One such example is known as CAR-T, which is an acronym for chimeric antigen receptors T-cell therapy.  The National Cancer Institute describes it in the following way: “After collection, the T cells are genetically engineered to produce special receptors on their surface called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). CARs are proteins that allow the T cells to recognize a specific protein (antigen) on tumor cells. These engineered CAR T cells are then grown in the laboratory until they number in the billions.”

In “Safety concerns blight promising cancer therapy” (October 12, 2016), Ledford writes:
But progress of the therapy, called CAR-T, has been marred by its toxicity; several deaths have been reported in clinical trials. Even as the first company readies its application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — expected by the end of the year — researchers are hard at work to make the supercharged T cells safer.
Doing so is crucial to expanding the use of the therapy to more people, says Anthony Walker, a managing partner at Alacrita, a consulting firm in London. “Right now it is heroic medicine,” he says — a gruelling treatment deployed only in people for whom all else has failed. “Patients are taken sometimes to within an inch of their lives.”
Most CAR-T procedures begin by harvesting a patient’s white blood cells and sifting out the T cells. Those T cells are engineered to recognize cancer cells, and then infused into the patient, ready to do battle. The approach has shown remarkable success against leukaemias and lymphomas: in one study, all traces of leukaemia disappeared in 90% of the patients who received the treatment (S. L. Maude et al. N. Engl. J. Med. 371, 1507–1517; 2014).
A promise is only as good as its ability to be fulfilled. The jury is still out on immunotherapies like CAR-T, and it will take time. Even if the FDA starts approving such therapies, it will take years of real-life data to see if it is indeed effective and safe for the majority of patients. It is true that all therapies have some risk, but it ought to be an acceptable risk, This is the primary role of the FDA, is it not?

During my last visit, when I questioned my oncologist, who is also a medical researcher, on whether immunotherapy was ready to replace conventional therapies like chemotherapy, he said not yet, adding that there was a great deal of hype surrounding much of cancer research announcements—where it is difficult to ascertain fact from fiction. Well, if truth be told, so much and too much in America is bathed in hype, notably if there is money or commercial investment involved.

There is a valley of difference between hype and hope, where the latter is based on bettering the human condition for the greatest number of people. One wonders how important patient interests are when compared to others that have more tangible rewards. Let’s hope that the FDA does not rush things just to line the pockets of a few. It would be far better if they are guided by the ethical principals of beneficence.

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For more, go to [Nature]

Monday, October 17, 2016

Large Tourist Cruise Ships Threaten Venice’s History

Photo Of The Week


Gondolas & Cruise Ships: The traditional gondolas contrast with the large cruise ships that bring more tourists to beautiful Venice, whose success as a tourist attraction could lead to its undoing. So says author Salvatore Settis, an internationally renowned art historian, who writes in If Venice Dies, that the tourist ships “may permanently damage the city’s history.” Simon Worrall writes the following for National Geographic: “Venetians are being driven out of the city by skyrocketing rent while giant cruise ships dwarf the skyline, risking a disaster like the Costa Concordia, the boat that sank off the Tuscan coast. There’s even talk of building a Venice theme park just outside the city. ” Settis argues, among other things, that a city cannot live only on tourism, that such large cruise ships disturb the aesthetic harmony of the city and, perhaps most important, Venice is too important a historical city to be forgotten. It’s not only important for Venetians, but also for humanity.
Photo Credit: Education Images, UIG: Getty Images
Source: NatGeo

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sammy Davis Jr. Entertains Germany (1985)



Sammy Davis Jr. [1925–1990; born Samuel George “Sammy” Davis Jr. in Harlem, New York City, NY] performs at the grand opening of Casino Hohensyburg (Spielbank) in Dortmund, Germany, on June 28, 1985. He was called “Mr. Entertainment,” but such titles are used only as a descriptive term to remind people of what an individual does and not necessarily what motivates him. It is undoubtedly evident that he was an entertainer’s entertainer; he could sing, he could dance; he could act. But he was also a man who understood his humble roots and what it meant to achieve success in the performance of something good when many others could not or did not. It is not always easy to find your place; it is even harder to maintain it. Sammy Davis Jr. died, aged 64, of throat cancer. For more, go to [SammyDavisJr.]

Song List
  1. Where or when
  2. New York, New York
  3. What I did for love
  4. Candy Man
  5. I´m singing in the rain
  6. What kind of fool am I
  7. The lady is a tramp
  8. Improvisation / I´ve got you under my skin
  9. I´ve gotta be me
  10. For once in my life
  11. As time goes by
  12. Mr. Bojangles
  13. Interview (1971)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Nobel Prizes (2016)

The Winners

Past Winners: The Nobel Prizes were created by Alfred Nobel for promoting outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and for work in peace. In his will, he dictated that most of his fortune should be used, the Nobel Prize organization says, for prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.”
Image Credit & Source: Nobelprize.org


Each year at this time (i.e., early October), Nobel Prizes are awarded, still considered the most prestigious international award in recognition of individual achievement; these awards were stipulated in the will of Alfred Nobel [1833–1896], the Swedish industrialist and inventor. The first ceremony was held in 1901. There are six prizes, the one for Economic Sciences was added in 1968. The winners this year, their ages in parenthesis, in each category and in order of announcement, are as follows:

Medicine or Physiology (Monday October 3rd): Yoshinori Ohsumi (71), the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet says, “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.” Yoshinori. Ohsumi is born in Japan and conducted his research at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan.
For more, see [NYT].

Physics (Tuesday October 4th):  David J. Thouless (82), F. Duncan M. Haldane (65) and J. Michael Kosterlitz (74), the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says, “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” The trio were all born in Britain, but conducted their research in the United States. David J. Thouless is Emeritus Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA; F. Duncan M. Haldane, is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Princeton University, NJ, USA; and J. Michael Kosterlitz,is the  Harrison E. Farnsworth Professor of Physics at Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.
For more, see [Nature].

Chemistry (Wednesday October 5th): Jean-Pierre Sauvage (71), Sir J Fraser Stoddart (74) and Bernard L Feringa (65)the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says,“for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.” Jean-Pierre Sauvage is Professor Emeritus at the University of Strasbourg, France; Sir J. Fraser Stoddart is Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA; and Bernard L. Feringa is Professor in Organic Chemistry at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Suuvage is born in France; Stoddart in Scotland; and Feringa in the Netherlands.
For more, see [ScientAmer].

Peace (Friday October 7th): Juan Manuel Santos (65), the president of Columbia, the Norwegian Nobel Committee says, “for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that has cost the lives of at least 220 000 Colombians and displaced close to six million people. The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process. This tribute is paid, not least, to the representatives of the countless victims of the civil war.” It is important to note that Colombians voted no to the deal that President Santos signed with the Marxist rebels.
For more, see [WaPo].

Economic Sciences (Monday October 10th): Oliver Hart (68) and Bengt Holmström (67), the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says, “for their contributions to contract theory.” Oliver Hart is Andrew E. Furer Professor of Economics at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, USA; and Bengt Holmström is Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics, and Professor of Economics and Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA, USA. Hart is born in Britain; and Holmström in Finland.
For more, see [BostonGlobe].

Literature (Thursday October 13th): Bob Dylan (75), the Swedish Academy says, “for having created new poetic expressions with the great American song tradition.“ Dylan is an American and the singer-songwriter is considered the voice of his generation. Although his work does not fit within the conventional boundaries of literature, it seems to have, nevertheless, inspired the committee to include him as a poet and his work as poetry. It might also speak of the power (and necessity) of passionate words at a time like we are witnessing and living in now.
For more, see [NYT].

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The United States (with 336) and Britain (with 117) continue to lead in the number of prizes won, (as of 2015), having the most Nobel laureates. Germany (with 98), France (with 62) and Sweden (with 32) round out the top five. Canada, the nation where I reside, is listed in the top ten and ranked ninth with 19 Nobel Laureates.

Quick Facts 
[from NobelPrize.org]
  • Awards: 573 Prizes to 900 Laureates
  • Prize categories: 6
  • Awarded women: 48
  • Awarded organizations: 23
  • Multiple Nobel Laureates: 6
  • Average age of a Laureate: 59
  • Age of youngest Laureate: 17
  • Age of oldest Laureate: 90
The awards ceremony will be held on December 10th, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. The award consists of a medal, a personal diploma, and a cash prize of 8 million Swedish kroner (SEK). or about 1.2 million (Cdn). The ceremony is held concurrently in Oslo and Stockholm, the Nobel Prize site says: “Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, while the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway. Since 1969 an additional prize has been awarded at the ceremony in Stockholm, The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, which was established in 1968 on the occasion of the Riksbank's 300th anniversary.”

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For more, go to [NobelPrize]

Friday, October 14, 2016

Let’s Go To ‘The Mountain’

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

Beaver Lake Pavilion:
Photo Credit: MartinVMtl; 2008
Source: Wikipedia

One of my favourite things to do while growing up in Montreal was to play at Mont-Royal Park, or as it was often called, “the mountain.” (The highest point at the top was 233 metres (or 764 feet) above sea levelThe pavilion at Beaver Lake was one of the places where we used to go often during the 1960s. It first opened in 1961, and it was quickly “considered one of the most innovative buildings in Québec,” writes les amis de la montagne on its site.

Back then, when we lived nearby on av du Park (Park Avenue), every Sunday during the summer, my father would say in Yiddish (zal s ale geyn tsu di moutain,) “Let’s all go to the mountain.” So, when I was very young, my two brothers and I would go for a walk (for about 30 minutes) with my father and mother from our house to an area near the pavilion at Beaver Lake, where we would picnic. Later, my father would give us money for ice cream, which we would buy at the concession stand inside the pavilion.

Beaver Lake (photo below), a popular place all year round, but more so during the summer. It got its name from the discovery of beavers’ dams during the time the artificial lake was made in 1938. The lake, in the shape of a four-leaf clover, has a maximum length of 240 metres (or about 787 feet). You can see another Montreal landmark. the dome of Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mont-Royal (Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal) in the background (upper corner left) behind the grove of trees.

The oratory, Canada’s largest church, was deemed a national heritage site in 2004. The dome, the third largest of its kind in the world, is a familiar site in and around the city of Montreal. I have been inside the oratory a number of times, and found it peaceful. (I plan to elaborate more about this place in another post.) I have fond memories of seeing it as a child as we were returning home to Montreal while traveling east on Hwy 40 (Autoroute 40), part of the Trans-Canada Highway. We would take day trips to Ontario, chiefly to Ottawa or to the beaches just across the Québec–Ontario border.

Years later, as a working adult, if I traveled by car or by taxi returning from the airport, the sight of the oratory told me I was home. I have always considered Montreal as “home,” my home, and “the mountain” as the magical place of childhood. La montagne est Montréal, ma belle ville.
Beaver Lake (Lac aux castors): 
Photo Credit & Source: Go Montreal Tourism

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Henry Green: It’s Much Easier To Say Than To Know

Novelists


“Prose is not to be read aloud but to oneself alone at night, and it is not quick as poetry but rather a gathering web of insinuations ... Prose should be a long intimacy between strangers with no direct appeal to what both may have known. It should slowly appeal to feelings unexpressed, it should in the end draw tears out of the stone ...”
Henry Green, Pack My Bag (1940)

Henry Green: The cover of the 1993 reissued book by Penguin Classics containing the novels “Loving” (1945), “Living (1929)” and “Party Going” (1939).
Photo Credit & Source: Amazon.ca 


I always find it exciting to find a novelist that I have never read before who says something new, novel, if you will. This is Henry Green, the nom de plume of Henry Vincent Yorke [1905–1973; born Gloucestershire, England]; Green is considered a modernist novelist, but part of his charm is that he defies classification. I have not read any of novels, but I plan to order a few as a gift for my birthday, which is due next month.

It was an article (“The Greatness of Human Unknowabilty;” October 17, 2016), by Leo Robson, in The New Yorker that caught my eye. I am thankful that I have read it and in doing so have made the discovery of something that I found myself thinking about, particularly this passage:
In 1950, Green wrote a BBC radio talk, “A Novelist to His Readers,” which was subsequently published in The Listener. He said nothing about the things that his readers might have considered obvious topics—the use of symbolism in scene-setting, for instance, or the relationship between metaphor and muddle. Instead, he launched an assault on the very idea of the narrator, whom he branded a “know-all.” We cannot tell what people in life are thinking and feeling, he said. Writers should, therefore, restrict themselves to what their characters say out loud. Green accepted that he could not do without narration altogether—the reader “must at least be told who is speaking” and how a character behaves after speaking. But he had turned his back on what he called “very carefully arranged passages of description.” Now he offered the example “He seemed to hesitate” as suitably tentative, comparing it to “He hesitated,” which was “too direct a communication from the author.”
I find this to be brilliant and right on the mark. We often talk about motivations, desires and psychological profiles, etc., when discussing or analyzing characters, but these are often as good as guesses. I, myself, as a writer tend to want to say more than I really know as a writer, when it is better to say less and suggest more, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks with his interpretation, his understanding of events, motives and desires.

It might be better to allow the characters to explain themselves, if this is what is necessary for the plot, even if the characters tend to deceive and mischaracterize, which can often happen.

It is counter-intuitive, it would seem, for writers to do this, but if done correctly, it leads to great novels that illuminate the human condition. It might be that the greatest writers are those that experience much and say as much as is necessary to convey this experience to readers. Green was not popular with readers, but he was respected by writers, including Evelyn Waugh, John Updike and Terry Southern. 

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For more, go to [NewYorker]

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bruce Nauman: Natural Light, Blue Light Room

Blueness

Fluorescent Blues: The artist is American Bruce Nauman [born 1941; Fort Wayne, Indiana], who lives in New Mexico. The architectural installation named “Natural Light, Blue Light Room” dates to 1971.  It is now on display for the first time since then at Blain Southern, London, where viewers have their sensory perceptions tilted by the blue fluorescent light and bare blue walls. This installation shows how our state of being, our sense of balance and equilibrium, our homeostasis, if you will, can be so easily altered by the skillful use of colour and light. It also shows how easily we can become disoriented. Aesthetica writes: “Comprised of skylights accompanied by blue fluorescent lights, the artwork alters the viewer’s ability to perceive the space clearly. Whilst representative of the familiar minimalist aesthetic of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Natural Light, Blue Light Room also acts as a reminder of the alternative concepts that concerned Nauman at the time. Alongside the idea of pairing a piece or object down to the bare minimum, the artist also focused on subtle atmospheric changes that could be employed to create a particular physical or psychological experience for the viewer.” The installation runs until November 12th. For more, go to [BlainSouthern].
Photo Credit: Peter Mallet; ©Bruce Nauman, 2016
Source: Aesthetica

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Reaching The Limits Of Human Longevity

Old Age



Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at 122, lived longer than any person in recorded history.
Photo Credit: AP
Source: STAT

An article, by Andrew Joseph and Natalia Bronshtein, in STAT magazine reports on a study that says we might be close to reaching the limits of human longevity. If this assertion is indeed valid, then it might be more prudent to allocate greater amount of research dollars on improving the quality of life to persons in their latter years rather than finding a way to increase human lifespans—whether through a mythical “fountain of youth”or a pill or finding a scientific medical way to regulate aging in humans.

For now, scientists say the limit of human life is 115 years; and the maximum possible lifespan is 125 years, notwithstanding an exception like Jeanne Calment of France, who lived to 122. Currently, there are eight verified living supercentenarians, the oldest of whom is an Italian woman, Emma Morano, who is older than 116 years. Again, these are exceptional persons in terms of human lifespans. 

They are likely to remain exceptions for some time. In “Humans can only live so long, and we’re nearing the limit, researchers say” (October 5, 2016), Joseph and Bronshtein write:
Even if scientists are able to slow some aspects of aging, they say, there are plenty more that can kill us.
“There’s no doubt that these intrinsic aging processes, they limit our lifespan,” said Jan Vijg, an author of the paper and a genetics and aging researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “There are so many genetic variants that could have a bad effect on you when you’re old. What are you going to do? Develop a drug for all of them?”
The record for longest known lifespan went to a Frenchwoman named Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at 122. Based on the analysis, the authors found that the global population would need to be 10,000 times bigger for someone to have a chance of reaching 126 years old in a given year.
As the thinking goes, with age comes the deterioration of cells, Both genetics and environment play a role in a long life, as may a combination of good choices and luck, the ratio indeterminate. Having a relative live a long life does not suggest that you will, or vice-versa. Once you survive childhood, the odds are fairly good that you will live into your eighties. And once you pass your 80s, there is a better chance of living to 100.

Humans are living longer, but not necessarily in better health. Cardiovascular diseases and cancer remain the leading cause of death in the United States and in Canada. The existential question is, as always, what kind of life is worth living. And how much does illness, especially if it is chronic, affect the willingness to live? How much does chronic pain? These are more than moot questions; the individual answers are important and tell us a little more about the nature of life and of living. The central question is what it means to live well. Such is the primary goal.

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For more, go to [STAT]

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Rosh Hashanah Dreaming



Performers from Temple Judea in Tarzana, California, perform “Rosh Hashanah Dreaming“ in an amusing take on the more-famous California Dreamin’ (1966) by the Mammas and Pappas. As is common in the best of humour, kernels of truth can be found. The lyrics were chiefly written by Rabbi Joshua Aaronson, who also performs in this video.

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The Autumn cycle of Jewish holidays begins with Rosh Hashanah (Sunday October 2nd at sundown). It is considered the Jewish New Year (5777), so we say Shanah Tovah Umetukah (Hebrew: שנה טובה ומתוקה ), which translates as “A Good and Sweet Year.” Fundamentally, the next 10 days are a time of inner reflection, or as it is saidteshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah. Counter-intuitively, this means ceding some control of your life, particularly in the desire or compulsion to (over)plan your future. The aim is to return to your better good-natured self or, in today’s parlance, to improve your characterbut primarily in accordance to the dictates of the Torah. I wish this sentiment, along with good health, peace, happiness and personal fulfillment, to all my friends, family and faithful readers, both new and old; both young and young at heart; and both near and far.

The Fountainheads: Dip Your Apple (2011)



The Fountainheads sing “Dip Your Apple,” a Rosh HaShanah song. The song, based on Shakira’s “Waka Waka” (2010), was first performed in 2011. (You can view a version in Hebrew [here]). The Fountainheads, the site says, is “an all-volunteer, student-led artistic project, led by young Israeli singers, dancers, and musicians, all students of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, who have joined forces to create new Jewish artistic content for today’s Jewish world.”

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Dip Your Apple
Lyrics by Ben R.

Tekiyah... Shvarim Truah
Tekiyah... Shvarim Truah (shofar sounds)

A new year rising
A new beginning
Lift your head up
Turn yourself 'round
The world is spinning

Feel the magic
Of a new day
Open your heart
To a fresh start
Send your fears away

You've made mistakes
You feel it
You got what it takes
Believe it

Any wrong can be made right
Just forgive, you need not fight
Shana Tova Umetuka (A sweet and happy New Year)
It's Rosh Hashanah

Shanana nana, Tova
Ume Ume Tuka
Dip your apple in the honey
It's Rosh Hashanah

So many new hopes
Waiting to find you
Open your eyes
The dreams you prize
Are all around you

The smiles are hiding
No use in guessing
Make up your mind
Go out and find
Life's simple blessings

This is your time
You feel it
How sweet it is
Believe it

Any wrong can be made right
Just forgive, you need not fight
Shana Tova Umetuka
It's Rosh Hashanah

Shanana nana, Tova
Ume Ume Tuka
Dip your apple in the honey
On Rosh Hashanah

Shanana nana, Tova
Ume Ume Tuka
Hear the sounds of jubilation
This Rosh Hashanah

Yehi Ratzon She-niye Le (May we be...)
Rosh, Lo Zanav (...a head, not a tail)
Sweeten life for those around us
With joy and love

Avinu Malkeinu
Chanenu V'anenu
Hear our prayer 'O Lord this hour
Inscribe us in the Book of Life!

Aneinu, Aneinu (answer us)
Aneinu, Aneinu
Aneinu, Aneinu
Aneinu, Shana Tova!

Shanana nana, Tova
Ume Ume Tuka
Dip your apple in the honey
On Rosh Hashanah

Shanana nana, Tova
Ume Ume Tuka
Hear the sounds of jubilation
It's Rosh Hashanah

Sh'echiyanu | Give us life Lord
v'kiyimanu | And sustain us
v'higiyanu | Oh deliver us | To salvation

Sh'echiyanu | Give us life Lord
v'kiyimanu | And sustain us
v'higiyanu | Oh deliver us | To salvation

In this New Year
On Rosh Hashanah
Make your loved ones smile
This Rosh Hashanah

Open your hearts to one another
This Rosh Hashanah
And begin life anew
This Rosh Hashanah!

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Vocals: Yoav Hoze, Shani Lachmish, Ahava Katzin, Tal Ginzburg, Reuven Katz, and Amit Ben Atar. Choreography: Ilana Bril and Edeete Suher.
Music arrangement, performance, and mixing:  Amit Ben Atar.
Recorded: Bit Studios by Amit Ben Atar.
Clothes by Rubashka - gallery and boutique with a social mission in Beer Sheva's underprivileged neighborhoods:  www.torhamidbar.org.il
Directed and Filmed: Ben R.
Producer: Yigal Haronian

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The Autumn cycle of Jewish holidays begins with Rosh Hashanah (Sunday October 2nd at sundown). It is considered the Jewish New Year (5777), so we say Shanah Tovah Umetukah (Hebrew: שנה טובה ומתוקה ), which translates as “A Good and Sweet Year.” Fundamentally, the next 10 days are a time of inner reflection and self-examination, or as it is saidteshuvah, tefillah and tzedakah. Counter-intuitively, this means ceding some control of your life, particularly in the desire or compulsion to (over)plan your future. The aim is to return to your better good-natured self or, in today’s parlance, to improve your character, but primarily in accordance to the dictates of the Torah. I wish this sentiment, along with good health, peace, happiness and personal fulfillment, to all my friends, family and faithful readers, both new and old; both young and young at heart; and both near and far.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

It’s A Cat’s World

Felines

Felis Catus: the domestic or common house cat. Jason Daley for Smithsonian writes: “Though the first full dog genome was sequenced in 2005, it took another two years for a cat’s genome to be sequenced. And it wasn’t until 2014 when a high-quality map of this cat’s genes, an Abyssinian named Cinnamon, was finally published.”
Photo Credit: Rob Stothard; Getty Images

Today is #Caturday in the world of Internet memes, so this is another story, among many, that will help spread this meme. How apropos, since this is a story of how cats became common around the world. An article, by Jason Daley, in Smithsonian says that “evolutionary geneticist Eva-Maria Geigl, from the Institut Jacques Monod in Paris, presented the first comprehensive study of the spread of felines through history at a conference in Oxford.”

Cats were first found in the Middle East, spreading to eastern Mediterranean along with the farmers who domesticated the felines to keep the mice from eating their agriculture; and then thousands of years later cats migrated by sea from Egypt, where cats were revered, to Eurasia and sub-Saharan Africa.

In “New DNA Analysis Shows How Cats Spread Around the World” (September 27, 2016), Daley writes:
Geigl and her colleagues analyzed the mitochondrial DNA of 209 domestic cats found at 30 archeological sites in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The cats span human history, from the dawn of agriculture through the 18th century.
What the researchers found is that cats spread in two waves. The first explosion happened when agriculture first appeared in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, where the wild ancestors of domestic cats live. Geigl suggests that when people began storing grain, they likely attracted rodents. These rodents, in turn, likely attracted the wild cats. Early farmers may have seen the advantages of having cats control the rodent populations and encouraged them to stick around, eventually leading to domestic breeds.
The second wave of cat-spansion happened several thousand years later, explains Callaway. Geigl’s team discovered that cats with a mitochondrial lineage from Egypt began appearing in Bulgaria, Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa between the fourth century B.C. and the fourth century A.D. The team believes sailors may have begun keeping cats on ships around this time to control rodents, spreading them to port cities during trading missions. In fact, a cat with the Egyptian mitochondrial DNA was found in a Viking site in North Germany dating between 700 and 1000 A.D.
What this research has confirmed, so far, is that cats have been domesticated much longer than 4,000 years ago, which was the generally accepted belief among scientists, but archaeological digs and Geigl’s current findings tell us that cats have been living around humans for much longer—probably as long as 10,000 years ago, when humans adopted a more agricultural lifestyle in a region known as the Fertile Crescent.

As is common with dogs, there are also pedigree cats and official cat shows with awards. The International Cat Association (TICA), based in the U.S., recognizes 63 breeds of cats, it says, “from the ancient Abyssinian to the newer breeds like the Lykoi cat, and including wild looking Chausie and Bengals.” The Canadian Cat Association (CCA) lists 55 breeds, including the house cat,  On the other hand, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), also based in the U.S., recognizes only 41 breeds of cats.

Some people fancy cats; some prefer dogs as companions; there are notable and noticeable differences between the two. On a personal note, I love cats, as do many writers, including Jean Paul Sartre, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. There is a good short article in The Guardian (“Authors’ mews: writers and their cats;” November 12, 2008) on writers and the cats who reside with them. Not to say too much here that people who have resided with cats already know, but cats have an air of mystery about them; they are mystical beings.

Final note: one does not “own” a cat. The cat “adopts” the human.

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For more, go to [Smithsonian]